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June 4th, 2012 Archives
By FELIX MORMANN and DAN REICHER June 1, 2012
Renewable energy needs help. Technological innovation has significantly reduced the cost of solar panels, wind turbines and other equipment, but renewable energy still needs serious subsidies to compete with conventional energy. Today, help comes mostly in the form of federal tax breaks.
These tax incentives, and the Congressional battle over extending them for wind projects beyond the end of this year, mean that other, more powerful policies to promote renewables are not getting the attention they deserve. If renewable energy is going to become fully competitive and a significant source of energy in the United States, then further technological innovation must be accompanied by financial innovation so that clean energy sources gain access to the same low-cost capital that traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas enjoy.
Two financial mechanisms that have driven investment in traditional energy projects — real estate investment trusts and master limited partnerships — could, with some help from Washington, be extended to renewable energy projects to lower their cost and make America’s energy future cleaner, cheaper — and more democratic.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/opinion/how-to-make-renewable-energy-competitive.html?ref=opinionShare This Post
Special to The Bee Published Saturday, Jun. 02, 2012
S. David Freeman, general manager of SMUD from 1990 to 1994, is a former head of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority and the California Power Authority.
When I became general manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in 1990, SMUD was an embarrassment. The district was reeling from two decades of rate hikes, construction cost overruns, operating failures, equipment outages, worker injuries, poor morale and management scandals. At my first meeting with Gregory Favre, then the executive editor of The Bee, he told me that in the prior year the paper had run 480 stories about SMUD – "all bad."
Today SMUD is considered a model of efficiency, service and innovation. As much as I like to brag about my four years at the helm, the most important moment in the turnaround came six months before my arrival, when the people of Sacramento voted to close the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant.
Since opening in 1971, Rancho Seco had suffered dozens of emergencies, shutdowns, releases of radioactive material and accidents. Freed of the costly, unreliable and dangerous nuclear albatross, SMUD earned a worldwide reputation for its programs to provide affordable, clean, renewable energy.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/06/02/4532500/time-has-come-for-california-to.htmlShare This Post
Posted: 06/03/2012 8:39 AM
The California Public Utilities Commission is set to decide Thursday whether to authorize Sacramento Natural Gas Storage to store approximately 8 billion cubic feet of repressurized natural gas under a residential neighborhood at the southeastern corner of Sacramento.
One commissioner has issued a proposed decision to grant the permit. Another commissioner recommends denial.
This decision should not be even a close call. The PUC should deny the permit.
The gas storage project is simply too dangerous and there is no urgent need for it. As Commissioner Mike Florio stated in his proposed decision to reject the gas company's application, "the unavoidable environmental impacts of the proposed project and its safety risks outweigh the benefits."Share This Post
Thursday, May 31, 2012
CARLSBAD — The California Energy Commission voted Thursday to approve a permit for the long proposed power plant near the Carlsbad coast.
The vote comes five years after plans for the 558-megawatt plant were submitted by NRG Energy, Inc., the New Jersey-based company that owns the existing Encina Power Station in Carlsbad.
The new plant would be built next to the Encina station and its 400-foot smokestack.
“We need to start thinking about what happens if San Onofre is not re-licensed,” commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller said just before the vote. “It’s better to have them where existing plants are than to try to do greenfield development.”Share This Post
By BEN LEFEBVRE June 1, 2012, 11:35 a.m. ET
HOUSTON—Chesapeake Energy Corp. said two new wells that it drilled in an oil and natural-gas play in the U.S. Anadarko Basin are producing a significant amount of oil for the cash-strapped company.
The wells, in the Hogshooter play in the Texas Panhandle and west Oklahoma, should help Chesapeake, the second-largest natural-gas producer in the U.S., as it shifts its production focus to more-profitable oil. Chesapeake's cash flow has taken a hit as the price of natural gas has collapsed during a production boom brought on by advances in drilling technology.
To read the entire article go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303552104577440293277556910.html?mod=WSJ_Energy_leftHeadlinesShare This Post
By RUSSELL GOLD June 3, 2012, 7:13 p.m. ET
Chesapeake Energy Corp. blames its current cash crunch on warm winter weather that reduced demand for the natural gas it pumps as the nation's second-largest producer of the fuel. But the situation is more complicated: The company compounded its troubles by taking a short-term gamble on gas prices that left it exposed to the worst gas market since 2001.
Last October, Chesapeake sold the financial contracts that were its insurance, or hedge, against low gas prices. Though the company raised cash in the trade, a Wall Street Journal analysis of Chesapeake's disclosures about the hedging positions found losses between $750 million and $900 million.
The losses came mostly in the last few months of 2011 and first months of 2012. And the removal of the hedges has left the company largely unprotected against low gas prices this year.
To read the entire article go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303506404577444484279186736.html?mod=WSJ_Energy_leftHeadlinesShare This Post
By DAN FROSCH June 2, 2012
PAVILLION, Wyo. — It has been more than four decades since the first well was drilled in the natural gas field beneath this stretch of slow rolling alfalfa and sugar beet farms. But for some who live here, in the shadows of the Wind River Mountains, the drilling rigs have brought more than jobs and industry.
For the last few years, a small group of farmers and landowners scattered across this rural Wyoming basin have complained that their water wells have been contaminated with chemicals from a controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
A draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency, issued in December, appeared to confirm their concerns, linking chemicals in local groundwater to gas drilling.
But here on the front lines of the battle over fracking, which has become an increasingly popular technique to extract previously unobtainable reserves of oil and gas, no conclusion is yet definitive.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/us/in-land-of-hydraulic-fracturing-a-battle-over-water-pollution.html?_r=1&ref=energy-environmentShare This Post
By Joel Achenbach, Published: June 3
UNIONTOWN, PA — This is coal country, even if there’s hardly any coal anymore. The elders can name the coal veins and describe their dimensions. People will still say, “I grew up in the patch.” That means they were raised in a cluster of company houses back in a hollow near the mouth of a mine. The kids would play king-of-the-hill on gobheaps of broken slate and mining waste.
The company houses are still there, but the gobheaps are overgrown. Hidden in the brush are the ruins of the beehive ovens that turned coal into coke and blackened the skies along the western slope of the Alleghenies.
The big play now is natural gas. Fayette County, which borders West Virginia about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh, is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale. Civic leaders hope that fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of the shale rock to liberate the gas in its pores — can reverse the fortunes of this depressed region.
This part of Pennsylvania is a political and economic battleground, a transitional place loaded with history, with memories of prosperity but also of vicious poverty. It’s on the front line of America’s economic doldrums, and it is not incidentally a swing county in presidential elections.Share This Post
Jun 1 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Sanjay Talwani Independent Record, Helena, Mont.
A high-ranking official with one of the nation's top coal producers said Thursday that attempts by groups such as the Sierra Club to stop construction of new ports on the West Coast would hinder the development of Montana's coal industry and related economic growth.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energycentral.com/functional/news/news_detail.cfm?did=24781710Share This Post
By MATTHEW L. WALD June 1, 2012, 10:24 am
New rules on pollution from coal plants will cost the American economy $175 billion to $275 billion between now and 2035, according to a new analysis from the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit utility consortium. But the price can be be closer to the lower figure if the government shows flexibility in how the rules are phased in, the researchers said.
Power sector expenditures will range from $140 billion to $220 billion, according to the institute, which used computer modeling to predict effects across the economy. Those are big numbers. But the electricity industry is vast, so the estimated impact on the retail price of electricity is expected to be just 4.5 to 8 percent in 2015, the group said.
Other trends, like a big increase or drop in overall demand or a major change in the price of natural gas, could yield larger charges in cost than this. And the estimates are a national average — the rise in costs would be steeper in the Midwest and Southeast, which rely more heavily on emissions-intensive coal, the report said.
To read the entire article go to: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/when-cleaning-up-power-plants-time-is-money/?ref=energy-environmentShare This Post
Barry Cassell | Jun 01, 2012
If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gives coal-fired power generators flexibility to comply with new and pending regulations, approximately $100bn in future compliance expenditures could be saved, according to a new assessment released May 31 by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energybiz.com/article/12/06/epa-urged-be-more-flexible&utm_medium=eNL&utm_campaign=EB_DAILY2&utm_term=Original-MemberShare This Post
By Juliet Eilperin, Published: June 3
For years, Canada has been seen as an environmental leader on the world stage, pushing other nations to tackle acid rain, save the ozone layer and sign global treaties to protect biodiversity.
Those were the old days.
The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is rewriting the nation’s environmental laws to speed the extraction and export of oil, minerals and other materials to a global market clamoring for Canada’s natural resources.
“The government is saying, politically, we want to hitch our wagon to an economic development strategy in which natural resource extraction plays a very large part,” said Brian Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a public policy think tank in Ottawa.Share This Post
By PAUL KARIYA AND DAVID PORTER, Special to the Sun May 27, 2012
A quiet revolution is taking shape with first nations and it has everything to do with energy and relationships.
Indian bands blessed with reserves adjacent to expanding urban markets have done well with leasing land for development, these include Kamloops, Musqueam, Osoyoos, Squamish, Sechelt, Tsawwassen and Westbank. When commercial salmon fishing was in ascendancy, coastal first nations had well-paying fishing and processing jobs. But economic development and job opportunities in the hinterland where most first nation communities are located have not kept pace with the needs of growing populations and consumer aspirations.
The clean energy sector is emerging in British Columbia as a source of long-term economic development opportunity for first nations. There are several reasons why.
First, run-of-river hydro, wind, bio-mass and natural gas projects are located in the hinterland and opportunities for development are situated throughout the province where first nations are located. Secondly, as a new industry, private sector clean energy developers have learned from history and have developed positive, respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with first nations. Thirdly, while immediate jobs are important, the business deals that are being struck are long term with revenue and cash flow tied to 20-to-40 year agreements. Fourthly, clean energy projects have light environmental impacts which first nations value. And, finally, first nations are not simply recipients of jobs and training but in many cases participate as equity partners and developers in their own right.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/resources/Editorial+First+nations+look+clean+energy+fuel+economic+development/6687797/story.htmlShare This Post
Posted: 06/04/2012 10:15 am
MIchael Marx Director, Beyond Oil Campaign, Sierra Club
June 4 is "Black Out Speak Out Day" in Canada. It's not a holiday. It's a rare national day of protest against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's conservative government's attack on civil society organizations including labor, environment, immigration, and students. Over 13,000 Canadian websites will be blacked out in protest. Many U.S. groups, including the Sierra Club, will join in solidarity. How did this happen to our friendly neighbors to the north? Why did Harper become so oppressive? Canadians pride themselves in being reasonable, open to discussion, tolerant, process-oriented-a bastion of democracy.
Harper's attacks are happening for many reasons, not the least of which was the success of environmental groups in Canada, the U.S. and Europe threatening what Big Oil wants most: unlimited tar sands expansion and pipelines like the Keystone XL to send its oil around the globe. The tar sands are the second largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia. From day one in office, Harper set out to make Canada an "energy superpower." He put the interests of the oil industry first and looked the other way when it came to enforcing laws about air and water pollution, endangered species, and the health of downstream communities. As a result, tar sands oil companies are destroying a pristine forest the size of England, accelerating the rate of climate change, causing thousands of wolves, bears, migratory birds, and caribou to die, and leaching toxic chemicals into rivers, as downstream communities experience a spike in cancer rates.
Harper has recently become the Tar Sands Advocate in Chief. His communications experts have brazenly tried to rebrand tar sands as "ethical oil," and he and his Ministers promptly incorporated the term into their rhetoric. At Copenhagen, Harper earned the Fossil Fuel Award for obstructing efforts to address climate change. He then sent government officials and lobbyists to the U.S. and E.U. to lobby against climate bills that would threaten the future market for tar sands oil. What he didn't expect was an American president to say "no" to an unsafe, toxic, high-carbon tar sands oil pipeline.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-marx/canada-black-out-speak-out_b_1567633.html?ref=greenShare This Post
Posted: 06/01/2012 9:03 am
Elliott Negin is the director of news & commentary at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece revealing that a number of major U.S. corporations that publicly acknowledge the threat of global warming are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a stealthy lobby group that ghostwrites legislation to scuttle climate change initiatives.
This corporate disconnect on climate goes way beyond ALEC.
A new report analyzing more than two dozen Standard & Poor 500 companies found that despite their public pronouncements about the reality of global warming, three-quarters of them at least indirectly hindered climate change mitigation efforts through lobbying, campaign contributions, agency comments, or their affiliations with trade associations and advocacy groups.
The report, "A Climate of Corporate Control," focused on 28 companies that made formal comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that carbon emissions endanger public health and contributed to campaigns for or against Proposition 23, a 2010 California ballot initiative that would have undermined the state's landmark law combating climate change. Ten of the companies, including ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Marathon Oil and Peabody Energy, are ALEC members.
"What we found most surprising is all of the companies expressed concern about climate change," said Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' (UCS) Scientific Integrity Program, which issued the report on Wednesday. "But when we took a deeper look, we found that a lot of the actions they took outside the public eye were inconsistent with their PR message."
ConocoPhillips is one of the companies that plays both sides of the fence. It has acknowledged on its website that "human activity ... is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate." But in its comments on the 2009 EPA endangerment finding, it claimed "the support for the effects of climate change on public health and welfare is limited and is typified by a high degree of uncertainty," and a year later it dropped out of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of corporations and environmental groups supporting a federal cap-and-trade system.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elliott-negin/more-corporate-contradict_b_1561229.html?ref=greenShare This Post